South Xtra: Peters' hard work yields a WPIAL title
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Peters Township cruised to a 5-0 victory against Shady Side Academy to win its second consecutive WPIAL Class AAA team title last Thursday., but reaching the final was anything but easy for the Indians.
Peters Township has only lost one match over the past two years. That came almost one month ago in a non-section contest against Mt. Lebanon.
Due to that loss, the defending WPIAL and PIAA champions were given only the No. 4 seed at the 2011 WPIAL Class AAA team tournament. Three undefeated teams -- Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny and Shady Side -- were awarded higher seeds than the Indians.
With the way the WPIAL bracket was constructed, Peters and Mt. Lebanon would have a rematch in the semifinals if the seeding held and that match would be for a PIAA playoff berth, since only the top two teams from the WPIAL qualify for the PIAA bracket.
The seeding did hold and the two teams met in the semifinals. But this time, the Indians prevailed.
"It was such an intense match," Peters Township sophomore Abby Cummings said. "It was intense the whole time."
Cummings played a pivotal role in the victory against the Blue Devils.
Just like the first match, Mt. Lebanon won at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, while Peters took the two doubles matches. But the difference this time was that Cummings defeated Jessie Warshaw, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) at No. 3 singles. Warshaw beat Cummings in the regular-season matchup.
"That was a big win for [Cummings]," Bowman said. "Playing at No. 3 singles, a lot of times you aren't getting a lot of competition and so she needed a big win like that. I think going into Mt. Lebanon, we knew we needed to win the doubles matches and get one singles match. Her match, realistically, was our best shot and she came through in straight sets after losing to Jessie a few weeks ago. That was big for her confidence."
Cummings, who paired with No. 1 singles player Sara Komer to win the WPIAL doubles title on Oct. 5, carried the momentum into Thursday's final, where she beat Shady Side's Liza Plakseychuk, 6-1, 6-1.
By the time Cummings' match was over, Komer had already beaten Emma Perelman, 6-0, 6-0, at No. 1 singles and Vida Komer and Jen Holcombe had beaten Anisa Khalouf and Maddy Mordoh, 6-1, 6-0, at No. 1 doubles. So when Cummings hit a backhand return past Plakseychuk to win the No. 3 singles match, she clinched the team title for Peters.
"I thought coming in we would be good [Thursday], but it always feels good to close it out," Cummings said.
Peters went on to win the other two matches to complete the sweep. Grzyb defeated Lindsey Miller at No. 2 singles, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, while the No. 2 doubles team of Megan Hixon and Morgan Parisi edged Danielle Perelman and Amanda Murphy, 7-5, 7-6 (6-2).
It was the second year in a row Peters has beaten Shady Side, 5-0, in the WPIAL title. Peters also defeated Shady Side in the PIAA final last year and will now be looking for its fourth state title in seven years this weekend.
Peters defeated McDowell from Erie County, 5-0, Tuesday in the first round of the PIAA tournament. The Indians will play Harriton in the quarterfinals Friday at the Hershey Racquet Club in Hershey.
Only three starters are back from last season's team -- Sara and Vida Komer and Cummings. The depth of Peters Township's program, however, allowed the team not to take a step backward.
"I think that has been the strength of our program the last few years -- that we're really deep," Bowman said. "We only had three returning starters and the other girls were buried on the depth chart last year and didn't play.
"Our JV team hasn't lost a match in three years, so a lot of those girls would probably be on varsity teams [at some schools]."